The Pregnancy Jitters
Although I have never been pregnant, my wife was, and I remember much of the anxiety she experienced. I tried to be involved in every aspect of the pregnancy, including Lamaze training, doctor visits and reading about the best kinds of child care. But, my understanding of the anxiety that a woman experiences was colored by my maleness. Having "gone through" pregnancy with my wife, I now have a much better understanding of the many causes of the anxiety that plague a pregnant woman.
Having a child is a fantastic event. So why do so many women experience so much anxiety when they go through the process? They may have the support of family and friends and yet feel a sense of "aloneness." What are some of the anxiety-arousing triggers that a woman experiences?
The bodily changes that precede the birth of a child are often troublesome for the expectant mother. Those who are more sensitive to their physical self, or have body misperception issues may become highly anxious over these physical changes. "What will my partner or friends think?" "Will others still find me attractive?" "How will I deal with the comments that others make about my body?" "Can I still exude a sense of confidence during this developmental phase in my life?" Although the media has recently portrayed the beauty of the pregnant woman, many may find it hard to relate to the perception of the pregnant woman being sensuous and beautiful.
Women experience apprehension over issues of whether the baby is developing normally. While modern medical knowledge provides a pregnant woman with more information, comfort, and security there are still lingering fears about the health of the developing child. Women look for signs from their doctor, their partner, and those around them to help establish a sense of well-being regarding their pregnancy. The "what-ifs" may at times dominate a woman's thinking. "What if my child is born prematurely?" "What if I can't bond with her?"
It concerns women about how their pregnancy affects their relationship with their partners. They may "awfulize" about whether their partner will feel jealous or left out. "How much time will a child take away from our relationship?" "How will being parents affect our sex life?" "How will having a child alter our lifestyle?"
Other questions that the pregnant woman thinks about are, "What will my life be like after the child is born?" "How will the child's temperament affect me?" "How demanding will the baby be?" "Do I breast feed or bottle feed?" "How will I function on less sleep?" "How will I look after childbirth?" "How and when do I resume work?" There are so many questions.
Although these anxieties are quite normal, there are some ways that such concerns can be minimized:
- Validate your fears by talking about them.
- Join an expectant mother's support group.
- Find a quality obstetrician and pediatrician to provide you with education and support.
- Reduce stress through gentle exercise, meditation and yoga.
- Stay occupied with routine tasks while you focus on planning for your baby's arrival.
- Discuss financial considerations with your partner or friends to plan for furniture, space, decorations, equipment and supplies.
- Read materials related to child-care before the baby arrives.
- Reflect on your own childhood and relate that to how you want to parent your child.
- When the "what ifs" flood your mind, replace them with self-nurturing self-talk.
- Take classes that will assist you in your delivery.
- Make sure that someone close to you is available at the time of the baby's birth.
- Pamper yourself…make time for massages, hot baths, pedicures.
- Spend time deciding on clothing and other items for the baby.
- Involve caring family and friends in every aspect of your pregnancy.
- Of course, get plenty of rest and eat properly.
- Live in the moment and try not to anticipate the future.
Although some apprehension is unavoidable during pregnancy, try to make this time as stress-free as possible. Secure proper support, become educated about child-care methods, learn anxiety-reducing strategies, and focus your attention on self-satisfying activities. Through preparation, support, and self-nurturing, your pregnancy and child birth can be less stressful and more satisfying.
James P. Krehbiel, LPC, CCBT is an author, a contributing writer for FamilyResource.com, and a cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached through his website at krehbielcounseling.com.